Keep calm and play on: Blues identify necessary adjustments for Game 2
ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Blues know they need to make adjustments after losing 4-2 to the Minnesota Wild in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
They also know they don’t need to panic.
"It’s first of four," forward Alexander Steen reminded reporters Thursday. "This is just Game 1."
Blues captain David Backes struck a similar tone — sober, but businesslike.
"One game’s in the books," he said. "They have a 1-0 lead, now it’s time for us to make a few adjustments and find a way to win the next one."
In fact, the Blues already had several answers as to what those adjustments should be for Game 2 Saturday in St. Louis. Minnesota’s speed outmatched the Blues’ size Thursday, but Backes believed getting second and third chances on the puck in the Wild’s zone would allow the Blues to neutralize their opponent’s speed advantage.
"(When) their speed is sitting in their own zone, it’s tough to use it," Backes said.
Steen emphasized cleaner exits from the Blues’ defensive zone into the neutral zone and using more speed between the blue lines. He’d also like to see the Blues capitalize on their scoring chances more.
"Being a little crisper when we have our chances," he suggested. "A little more killer instinct when we have our chances as well. Start burying some of these."
In some cases, the emotional rebound could prove equally challenging, especially for a team that’s dealt with premature postseason exits in recent years. But the Blues were realistic about the series; they knew Minnesota, despite being a wild-card team, was an opponent to respect.
"I don’t think we expected to win four straight," goaltender Jake Allen said.
Throughout the season, the Blues’ leadership corps has tried to establish a healthy attitude toward wins and losses, refusing to let one setback, or one victory, color what they need to do going forward and ruin their enjoyment of playing hockey — which, in the end, can make a team unproductive.
"It’s a balance, I think, during a long, grinding season that’s 190 days long plus training camp that if you get too serious, and you ride that roller coaster, and it’s a burden to be at the rink, that’s not when you’re productive working," Backes said. "You need it to be fun, but you need to be serious when the chips are on the line, and we’ve done a good job balancing that of, ‘Hey, we lost last night, but the sun came up and we’ve got another opportunity today,’ with, ‘Hey, we won last night, but we haven’t accomplished anything."
It’s an attitude that may serve them well now as they face the short-term, do-or-die part of the year, which requires even quicker recoveries from disappointing losses. The Blues, however, have been here before: In the 2011-12 postseason, the San Jose Sharks beat them 3-2 in double overtime in St. Louis, and the Blues came back to win the series. In fact, the last time the Blues advanced past the quarterfinals after a Game 1 win was in 2001. Since then, they’ve never advanced to the second round without losing Game 1 of the quarterfinals first.
This year’s club, meanwhile, remains confident in its work ethic going forward despite Thursday’s slow start, which saw them down 1-0 early in the first period.
"You get down one at home, you’d hope that you’d pick it up a notch and that would be the wakeup call. It almost took ’til the third period until we finally got our legs going and started playing our brand of hockey," Backes said. "We need a much better effort on Saturday, but the good thing is, we know it’s in this room to bring that better effort."
After all, a Game 1 loss is damaging only when it’s followed by three more.